Blu-Ray Review: Blood Rage

Blood Rage AV018Just in thyme for your Thanksgiving film feast, Arrow Video via MVD Visual strikes again with the perfectly themed (and definitely NOT for the whole family!) horror flick, 1983’s Blood Rage. If you’re a horror film fan who’s scratching your head raw and thinking out loud “Hey, I never heard of this one before!”, well… you’re not incorrect there, pal. Actually, director John Grissmer’s film wasn’t released in that year or even with that particular title. It came in on the tail end of the slasher flick craze and seemed to be deemed too violent for a genre that had gotten “tamer” over the course of the early 80’s.

The film finally hit theaters in 1987 as a heavily edited but still “R” rated version with the more generic title NIGHTMARE AT SHADOW WOODS, which is thankfully included in this special edition package along with a third cut of the film that combines footage from both versions into a big, bloody meal. And if it’s special features you want, Arrow’s got you well covered with a slew of features including interviews with cast members (Louise Lasser, Mark Soper), visual effects artist Ed French, and producer/actress Marianne Kanter on how this one came together and how she ended up in the film as a victim of one of the more outrageously icky cinematic murders of that era. A high body count, an overall offbeat tone, plenty of cheesy synth tunes tickling your eardrums and some solid and yucky gore effects from Ed French make this one a real treat.
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In The Heart Of The Sea: One Pissy Whale = Low Sea Men Count

Hmmm. On one hand, I don’t want to see In The Heart of the Sea in a theater because that means going in with people who know nothing about the true story of the whaling ship Essex and what happened to it and its crew sitting down and expecting some sort of action movie version of Moby Dick, a book that to some is nearly incomprehensible by modern standards. I’m betting myself a shiny new penny that most of the short attention spanners also don’t remember The Perfect Storm and its bleak (but somewhat too heroic to be plausible) finale that went for uplifting (in more ways than one, ha!) just so audiences would leave the theater in a somewhat more together condition and not drowning in all those salty tears.

On the other hand, it’s all that expensive CG work in the trailer and nothing at all in the commercials about the more horrifying aftermath where bad navigational decisions led to the Essex survivors forced to choose a little bit of cannibalism after weeks at sea that bugs me even more. Although I do wonder if fresh leg of man is safer than a movie theater hot dog globbed with chili and unnaturally orange “cheez”. Yeah, that’s a happy holiday film (and perfect Oscar bait) for your consideration, right?
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Blu-Ray Review: Eaten Alive

Eaten Alive AV015While The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was (and still is) a memorable horror film experience, Tobe Hooper’s follow up, 1976’s Eaten Alive (released in 1977) was and is memorable for entirely different reasons. While it’s got a compelling and frightening performance from Neville Brand and that bathed in red sound stage set makes the film even more frightening, there’s a “too many hands” feel to the production process that makes the film more of a “B” than it deserves to be. That said, it’s yet another excellently produced Arrow release that’s worth a buy for the solid 2K restoration job and copious special features as well as the chance to see a film you may not have heard of previously (or had forgotten entirely).

Then again, given the incredibly sleazy origins of the “allegedly based on actual incidents” story here, Eaten Alive also works quite well as a pure “B” flick. Running a tidy 87 minutes, no time is wasted here as Brand’s psychotic veteran motel keeper, Judd, kills off a local lady of the evening after a tryst gone wrong at a brothel nearby sends her scampering for the hills after the madam (Carolyn Jones) gives her the boot. Judd runs the Starlight Hotel (one of the film’s many alternate titles along with Death Trap, Legend of the Bayou, Starlight Slaughter and Horror Hotel) which also happens to have a live crocodile as an attraction living in a penned in “swamp” outside. You know that Judd and his “pet” are going to be pretty busy as the film progresses and the victims show up as if there’s a massive magnet yanking their cars in that general direction. Continue reading

Star Wars Episode VII Seems Even Cooler in Japan

Let’s see now… This:

Versus this:

Both are great trailers, but I give the edge to the Japanese edit for its slightly more spoiler-iffic moments. Um, that is all (for now) as I prefer to wait until the movie is actually out before judging anything else.

Random Film of the Week: The Pirate

The Pirate MPEvery movie fan (this writer included) has a case of “Hollywood Blinders” they slap on for certain films they love because without them, thinking of anything abnormal taking place behind the scenes ruins much or all of a particular movie’s strengths. This little review just so happens to be about one of those films some outright adore while others don’t take to it all that well.

While its comic book colors and highly exuberant performances make Vincente Minnelli’s 1948 musical The Pirate a mostly to extremely fun to watch slice of Hollywood entertainment, it’s the behind the scenes stuff that makes the film somewhat problematic as a classic one can fully enjoy unless you ignore certain elements. For this particular film, those Hollywood Blinders take the form of an eye patch (or bandanna or even a big felt pirate hat if you like watching your colorful, imperfect musicals with two working eyeballs).

The pairing of Gene Kelly and Judy Garland should have been a wonderful one and in fact is when the film hits most of its high marks. But thanks to the studio system’s lousy treatment of her from the beginning of her career, Garland’s star was far from shining bright during the troubled production. The results are amusing and impressive at times, but it’s also a somewhat flawed film with a too quick finale that pops in as if the cameras were running out of film and something needed to get shot or someone had to walk the plank.

(thanks, SuperVintageCinema!) 

Garland’s assorted troubles (including a nervous breakdown that kept her off set for an extended period) thankfully don’t show up in the finished product. But it’s clear that the wide-eyed gal next door who played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz less than ten years previously was a wider-eyed and far more troubled soul on a downward spiral to a much shorter life than she deserved. Toss in a fantastic Gene Kelly dance sequence with The Nicholas Brothers that seemingly got them pushed out of the movies (and Hollywood) for a few years too long and you end up with a film best seen with those Hollywood Blinders on. Nice and tight, now.  So, buckle your swash and slap on that eye patch, folks. There’s a storm a-brewin’ on the shooting stage and you’re getting shanghaied and strapped into your seats for a wild ride… Continue reading

Random Film of the Week: High and Low

High and Low 24_BD_box_348x490_originalBased on the 1959 crime novel King’s Ransom: An 87th Precinct Mystery by Ed McBain (Evan Hunter), Akira Kurosawa’s 1963 film Tengoku to jigoku (Heaven and Hell or High and Low to western audiences) is one of those great police procedural films that’s a must for crime drama fans. With perfect casting, a gripping story of a kidnapping gone wrong thanks to a case of mistaken identity and the rush to find the kidnapper before things go further south, Kurosawa’s film is a multi-layered masterpiece worth seeing multiple times.

When “wealthy” businessman Kingo Gondo (Toshiro Mifune) and the company he works for decide to snap up the National Shoe Company, there’s a divide between executives on how to close the deal. Gondo prefers the company stick to making well-made and reliable stompers for the masses but other big shots want shoes for all that are cheaply made and thus, more profitable because they’ll need to be replaced more often. With all the back and forth debating going on, Gondo has a master plan he’s hiding from his peers. He’s mortgaged everything he owns and plans to pull off a leverage buyout of National Shoes that would put him in charge for good and keep National doing what they do best.

Little does he know he’s being watched by a few pairs of far more evil eyes looking up at his “castle” from the lower depths… Continue reading

BUY IT! MVD Entertainment Has Reptiles and Ants For Sale

The Color of Noise ROB002 

Oh yep. I’ve since forgotten who introduced me to Amphetamine Reptile Records way back in the day, but it was a fine and more than a little insane musical journey that was great while it lasted. MVD Entertainment Group is getting me (and some of you) to relive those glory days of noise rock with what’s going to be one of the best documentaries on the subject, Eric Robel’s The Color of Noise in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack. This trailer gives you a little taste of what to expect when the doc appears on home video November 24 and even better, MVD and AmRep will also re-issue some of the best releases from the label’s catalog on vinyl and CD starting in December 2015 and continuing into 2016 and beyond. Continue reading

Blu-Ray Review: Stray Cat Rock: The Collection

Stray Cat Rock_AV008As a slice of Japanese cinema of the early 1970’s, the five films that make up Arrow Video’s Stray Cat Rock Collection make for quite a quintuplet of quickly made flicks influenced by American biker films of the previous decade. Directed by Yasuharu Hasebe and Toshiya Fujita, the films feature the same cast members but are actually mostly unrelated other than in their thematic elements.

“Youth gone wild!” and “Crime Doesn’t Pay!” seem to be the orders of the day here as the series was created by Nikkatsu to compete with rival Toei’s popular Delinquent Boss films. So there’s male and female gangs, exploitative violence, not as much sex or nudity as you’d think (but it’s certainly there), a bit of slapstick, a random concert and more. While there’s plenty of seedy and salacious content, some of the trailers included advertise the films partially as comedies, which is amusing in and of itself. In other words, some viewers will need to approach this set with a wide open mind because what constitutes “comedy” here might seem a bit humorless or just plain strange outside of its home country. This is a good thing at the end of the day as expanding one’s cinematic horizons is a core reason to watch films you’ve never seen previously.

The overall tone of the films will probably seem scattershot to some viewers used to movies that stick to a certain predictable style from start to finish. For all the raging delinquency, drug use, wild dancing, sex and violence on display there’s also a lot of karmic retribution and negative actions leading to more and worse reactions for some characters. This makes the collection a really intriguing set of films that, warts and all make for some pretty cool “B” movie bliss. As usual, some excellent transfers and nice bonus material round out this Arrow Video release and make it a must for collectors. Continue reading

Blu-Ray Review: Pit Stop (The Winner)

Pit Stop AV016Busted-up junker cars slamming into each other on a crazy figure eight racetrack may seem like a one-note film idea with limited appeal. But Jack Hill’s 1969 “B” movie Pit Stop makes for quite a spectacular ride for more than the crash-crazed car fiends out there. For a low-budget black and white quickie shot in the late 60’s, Hill gets some major mileage from from his cast that includes Richard (Dick) Davalos, Sid Haig, Brian Donlevy, Beverly Washburn and Ellen Burstyn.

Once again, Arrow Video brings an excellent director supervised and approved HD remaster to the table packed with bonus features that make this one a fantastic addition to any film collection. For all the high-speed action and off-track thrills, there’s a nifty little tale of a man who manages to win it all yet lose everything important by the end.

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Jem and the Holograms Trailer: Welcome To The Blonder-dome

Jem and the Holograms MPNot being a fan at all of the old cartoon and spending time watching a few too many old episodes over the last week or so makes me an easy judge of how this film will do at the box office. The answer is “terribly or worse” for a few key reasons. Reasons one and two: Based on poking around the internet and reading a few too many “totally outrageous!” comments, the older fans didn’t ask for it and the younger ones don’t really exist. That is, unless they have parents trying too hard to be their best friends and think this is a gateway to that friendship.

Cue the future news stories of kids possibly bumping off those parents in their sleep after being taken to see this turd.

It’s also perhaps somewhat sadistic (or masochistic, depending on how you angle that shoe mirror) of them if those parents dragging their tweens to this think it’ll be as “cool” as the show was only to find out they’ve been unfriended before or during the end credit roll. That’s going to be one long, looooong drive home from the multiplex is all I’m saying. (THAT said, okay, okay. I kind of liked the writing in some of the episodes, so I’ll blame the great Christy Marx and the shows other writers for making me enjoy most of those episodes, grrrr!)

Um, where was I again? Oh, yeah…

Sorry, but the whole sappy dramatic movie of the week look of this unspecta-clueless trailer screams “Lifetime quickie flick!” more than something worth paying money to sit stupefied in front of. Hell, at least the live action Josie and the Pussycats flick didn’t go for schmaltzy “realism” at all. It wasn’t a good film at all either, but it at least went down in flames winking at itself. Anyway, Hollywood has been suffering from remake-itis for decades, but this cobbling of ancient cartoons and TV shows only boomers who haven’t grown out of them yet will recall with any sort of warm nostalgia (nope, that’s not a mild case of incontinence) is getting out of hand. Ah well. This one will pop up on cable within what, eight or nine months of its theatrical release? Probably. Will I watch it? Probably not. But curiosity has drawn many to many a train wreck, so as always… we shall see.